Updated: Jun 22, 2020
Did you ever get in trouble when you were a kid for doing something you didn’t know was wrong? I still remember that feeling. It was super embarrassing to discover my perspective was limited. And even worse, to find I could cause harm without being aware of it at all! Instinctively, my dislike for this feeling of "being wrong" woke up another part of me. This part desperately thrashed around for an exit door. "Look! I didn’t know!" Clinging to naïveté as innocence allowed me to justify myself. And rushing for open doors to avoid pain also short-circuited self-reflection & the chance to expand my perspective. Instead, I learned to strengthen my self-view (insert your own adjectives here: thoughtful, kind, loving, well-informed, etc.) and reassert my "rightness."
Now, that was all one thing when I was a kid, right?!? Yet, here I am again and I’m very much an adult now. I am horrified to discover I've been doing something, antithetical to my self-view, without even being aware of it. So I ask you, "Should I run for an exit door?" I could find any number of them, and wouldn’t have to look far either. Certainly there are time-honored explanations for the way things are which could be used to dismiss any personal role in a societal problem. If I don’t run for the door, am I ready to sit with my uncomfortable feelings? Ready for that part of me to calm down and really sit?
To be with this newer and deeper awareness, it helps me to acknowledge two things for now:
#1 My lack of awareness doesn’t make me a *bad* person, but it certainly makes me much less-informed than I thought, but mainly that,
#2 It really isn’t about my personal comfort or ideas of my goodness, it’s about looking at the harm that I’ve participated in. That swimming in the pool of comfort that my heritage has given me has, at the same time, been taking from others.
Can I move beyond a knee-jerk response of "Look! I didn’t know" to "I want to know the ways that I’ve participated in a culture that gives to one set of people and takes from others?" I am willing to try harder. I am willing to be wrong. I am willing to be corrected. It sounds like I’m willing to be a kid again…without my defenses up.
To move into this space (as a person of privilege), there is No Perfect.
There is no Getting it Right.
There is being curious.
There is being real. There is being open.
There is a lot of listening.
I’m using one list (out of many options!) below as one guide into deeper listening. Perhaps you’re someone who has been talking &/or is willing to share your experiences of racism. Or perhaps you’re like me and would be interested in learning to listen better. In either case, please feel free to reach out.